Review – Dawnshard by Brandon Sanderson

Because writing 1200+ page books every three years alongside smaller YA books isn’t enough, Brandon Sanderson has also decided to write novellas for the Stormlight Archives. This most recent novella, Dawnshard, (which is really a short novel, but who’s counting) was included as part of the kickstarter of The Way of Kings leatherbounds and I was able to get my ebook copy just a couple days ago.

The story follows Rysn, the Thaylen trader with a brand new ship, and the Lopen, former one-armed Herdazian and former king-if-only-for-a-few-minutes-it-still-counts-don’t-@-me, who is along to provide support as they venture to Aimia. 

As far as criticism goes, I really have to nitpick a bit. There is a bit of technical jargon (as an engineer I actually quite love this) that can slow the pacing in some moments which is tough in a book that is so short already. It barely counts and if you’re reading Dawnshard you’re probably already accustomed to Sanderson’s pseudo-science lessons on the ecosystem or fabrials or whatever else. 

***I don’t think the next paragraph counts as a spoiler but I don’t want nastygrams for it. If there is a spoiler it is INCREDIBLY mild. So warning?***

The other point, which isn’t a negative but a curiosity, is the significance of the story. When Edgedancer was released, it was viewed as non-essential but did include some valuable character developments. Here, I can’t speak to what Sanderson has said nor am I sure what the fandom perspective is, but the events are significant enough to the greater story of the Stormlight Archives that I wonder how it will tie in without significant exposition (for those who didn’t read Dawnshard) or making it an essential piece of the story. It’s a small thing that may well work itself out, but as of 2020, I’m not sure how.

That said, I adored this book. Ryan has grown from an annoyingly long interlude character to someone I admire as a person and a leader. The realities of the depression caused by her disability and the way people around her treat her because of it hit home and, while she has found a sense of purpose, the path back to feeling useless is a slippery one. Her cleverness as a ship owner and as a trader are challenged constantly and the solutions she comes up with are as brilliant as they are creative. 

The Lopen is in rare form here. Now there are many people who don’t love Sanderson’s sense of humor. That’s fine, humor is subjective, but I’m not among them. Lopen is out in full force and I loved every single word. Not to mention his cousin Huio gets some love which was wonderful as well.

The story does a great job of digging into one of the more mysterious corners of this fascinating world and satisfying the reader while still leaving so many questions for the larger novels to explore. 

Last, the theme of broken characters shines once again and is the brightest part of the book. Sanderson digs into the psychological struggles of very real people in his world.

Unfortunately I don’t know how to say more without spoiling things. So that’ll wrap things up for me.

Overall 5/5

Bingo 2020 (for you r/Fantasy readers):

  • Features Exploration (Hard Mode)
  • Published 2020
  • Magical Pet
  • Made Me Laugh (your mileage may vary)

***HERE THERE BE SPOILERS***

Since I’m exhausted from the Sanderson Avalanche and the current state of politics, I’ll just leave the spoilery bullet points from my notes:

  • YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALB is back! For a chapter. One. chapter. How dare you. In more serious words, I was thrilled to see him return, but I wanted so much more. 
  • Lopen being chosen to go with Rysn was a brilliant choice. It probably should have been more obvious to me, given his time with only one arm, but it was played perfectly. 
  • Speaking of Lopen, first he has to watch his cousin reach the third ideal first, then he reaches the third ideal himself but not until the action is over. 
    • On that note, his ideal broke the mold a little bit. It was more introspective and conversational and didn’t follow the “I will protect even those I hate” pattern. It opens fresh opportunities for the future and grants Sanderson some wiggle room with other characters.
  • Huio was so much fun. For a character who just showed up one day, and was uncomfortably quiet all the time, he had so much personality when talking to Lopen. 
  • Aluminum was much more of a known commodity than I realized.
  • The Sleepless were very interesting to watch. After they’ve been presented as this horror-movie villain for so long, they turned out to be secret protectors of an ancient device. It was a little jarring, but I was on board by the end. Rysn showed up in that negotiation.
  • DAWNSHARD. THERE IS A DAWNSHARD. The implications of this are absolutely massive. 
  • Also, and this deserves it’s own point, details of the dawnshard sound suspiciously like Awakening. Intent and Command, plus the colors and and flavors being more intense. I have to think that Zahel will be a huge factor in the use of the Dawnshard long-term. 

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